Architects are still exploring the benefits of ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that uses natural processing to create conversational dialogue.
While media attention has focused on AI’s image-making tools such as Midjourney and Dall-E, ChatGPT’s ability to answer questions, tell stories, process data and deal with reams of technical information will have a much greater impact on the profession architects believe.
Here are some of the top ways ChatGPT is being used by architects.
Bid writing and PQQs
Given how much time practices spend filling in bids and PQQ forms, it’s no surprise that some of them are handing the job over to AI.
Architect Kier Regan-Alexander who set up his consultancy last summer with a particular focus on AI says: “Bid-writing is the most keenly adopted use-case for GPT at the moment. I'm working with practices on fine-tuning models on their case studies to get really good at providing a first draft for the"Social Value" question which is asked on every tender, but slightly differently each time”.
However, the downside of using ChatGPT for writing tenders is that very soon all the answers will not only be perfectly pitched, they will sound the same, according to Russell Curtis of RCKA who says tendering will become “a kind of arms race” — an ever escalating competition — “that the public sector isn’t set up for responding to or knowing how to deal with”, he adds.
Marketing and social media
While one of GPT’s selling points is its ability to create round-the-clock content that’s highly optimised for search engines, not all architects are that impressed.
Peter Dye, Sheppard Robson's marketing and communications director says the practice is using ChatGPT for content generation “but it only gets you 60-70% there and then you need to spend time checking and amending.
"For me, it doesn’t really work currently ….and the written content is very vague and can sound quite strange. As a team, we compare human vs AI, and we can still easily tell which one is which”.
Regan-Alexander says “I often use it to edit my words down, or to offer alternative title suggestions or to break a long form article into blog posts... it can do all that very well”.
For simple planning applications, such as a loft extension or rear extension, ChatGPT “gives you a fairly passable design and access statement” says vPPR’s Tatiana von Preussen, “and it does pick up all the relevant policies…as well as referencing where it’s getting the information from.”
She adds, “Although you have to check it through, it’s probably similar to asking an untrained person, like a Part 1 to write it" - with the obvious difference that the chatbot is free.
While she does not believe that AI will replace architects, she does think it will impact consultants’ jobs because practices will be able to provide flood risk assessments, acoustic reports and other consultancy services themselves, including planning advice.
Although only those with coding skills could build custom chatbots, this is changing and soon practices will be able to create their own chatbots or like the one recently devised by Regan-Alexander, that he hopes will be used by other professionals.
He has created a custom GPT that can answer any question about whether your project complies with the new Building Safety Act, a complex piece of legislation that came into force this year.
“This could be a game changer,” says Stride Treglown director, Pierre Wassenaar. “You can ask, does this project I’m building comply with all this new legislation and it comes out yes or no. It could reduce the number of grey areas”.
Will AI take over architects’ role?
No. They are relieved that many aspects of the profession are still outside AI’s scope. But this doesn't mean AI can be ignored.
Wassenaar says AI is forcing his practice to focus on its core offer to clients.
“You have to be incredibly clear ..... people are looking for honesty and authenticity, more than just a few words. Clients want to look beneath that and ask what has the practice invested in over the years that actually means anything and why should we trust them? That’s old fashioned marketing and I don’t think that’s going to change”, he says.
Von Preussen agrees: “I think architects are lucky when it comes to the AI revolution. A computer will never really be able to replace a human in its ability to bring together the aesthetic and technical and the knowledge of a site in an intuitive way. I just don’t believe that AI will be able to do that but what I do believe is that it will replace a lot of the grunt work, all the boring bits which we don’t want to do anyway”.